Trump hits ‘radical left,’ news media, China in Independence Day address
President Trump took aggressive swipes at the “radical left” and news media while defending his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic during a wide-ranging Independence Day address on Saturday.
“American heroes defeated the Nazis, dethroned the fascists, toppled the communists, saved American values, upheld American principles, and chased down the terrorists to the very ends of the Earth,” Trump said at the White House.
“We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and people who in many instances have absolutely no clue what they are doing,” he added, alluding to the nationwide protests against police brutality and racial inequality that have been ongoing since the May 25 death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody.
On the nation’s 244th birthday, Trump said that America was thriving on his watch until it “got hit by the virus that came from China,” comments that come as the U.S. and multiple states have reported record numbers of coronavirus cases in the past week.
The president repeated talking points he’s pushed in recent weeks saying that the spike in cases is a result of expanded testing, a claim rejected by the White House’s own experts. He also touted a declining death rate in the U.S., which is still higher than other developed countries.
“And we’ve made a lot of progress, our strategy is moving along well,” Trump said. “It goes out in one area, it rears out its ugly face in another area. But we’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned how to put out the flame.”
Trump said that “99 percent of [cases] are totally harmless,” appearing to refer to a statistic from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week that 102.5 per 100,000 population warrant hospitalization.
“We have the most and finest testing in the world,” he told a crowd on the White House lawn where few were wearing masks, adding that the country now has “far more” ventilators than it needs.
Trump said “we will likely have a therapeutic or vaccine solution long before the end of the year.”
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said in a congressional testimony last week that he is “cautiously optimistic” that a vaccine will be ready by late winter, though others have called that timetable optimistic.
Trump said U.S. media outlets “slander” him and his allies by calling them or their actions racist. He described news coverage regarding the toppling and removal of Confederate monuments as disrespectful of the U.S. armed forces.
“You not only slander me, you not only slander American people, but you slander generations of heroes who gave their lives for America,” Trump said. “You slander people much braver and more principled than you… You are dishonoring people fighting for freedom in the Civil War — you slander them.”
Trump has called Confederate statues an important part of American history and threatened to veto a bipartisan measure to rename U.S. Army bases that were named after Confederate military officers.
Protesters have said that heroes of the Confederacy, which lost to the Union in the Civil War, represent the nation’s racist past.
It was the president’s second-annual “Salute to America” on the Fourth of July, though the pandemic necessitated an event far smaller than last year’s on the National Mall celebrating the U.S. military.
In 2019, Trump largely avoided politics in a speech before thousands of supporters given from the Lincoln Memorial.
This year, with polls showing Trump trailing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by larger and larger margins with less than four months to go before Election Day, he peppered his favorite targets with criticism ahead of a series of military flyovers and a fireworks display that began around 9 p.m.
“The more bitter you become, the more we will appear to love and patriotism, and the more we will rise above your hate to build a better future for every child in our great country,” he said.
A day earlier, Trump hit on many of the same themes during a holiday weekend speech at Mount Rushmore, drawing criticism from Democrats who said he was politicizing what should be a celebration for all Americans.
“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children,” the president said Friday.
—Updated on July 5 at 11:11 a.m.